By now, many must have heard about the devastating attack on Al-Rawdah Sufi Mosque in Egypt, which was carried out using machine guns and explosives. Victims were attending Friday prayer at the mosque, which is located on the Sinai peninsula of Egypt. While no terrorist group has directly claimed responsibility, one mosque attendee said that at least one of the attackers was carrying an ISIS flag. With the death toll at 305, this marks the deadliest assault on civilians in Egypt’s history.
Witnesses say that the attack began with an explosion on a building connected to the mosque. The explosion led civilians to exit the main building, where they were greeted by attackers who were waiting to open fire as they tried to escape. The attackers entered the mosque and then started shooting inside as well. Ambushes were planned along the route that the ambulances would travel, targetting those who were being transported to the hospital.
These kinds of events are extremely difficult to process and leave us baffled at the inhumanity of others. The beauty of society should emerge at our differences, as diversity is something that should be celebrated. Instead, differences are the cause of unbridled anger for many. Differences are seen as a bad thing, and unfortunately, many of these deadly attacks stem from this sentiment.
Through their killing, these extremists compromise the most basic teachings of the Islamic faith: to not harm others. One of the most important lines of The Qur’an (5:53) reads, “… whoso kills a soul…it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.” Extremists who manipulate verses to defend their actions say they perform these killings in the name of God, but directly violate vital parts of religious obligations. How can some be so angry about other people performing a religion “incorrectly,” that they commit one of the worst sins?
Sufism is a branch of Islam, sometimes known as “Mystical” Islam, that focuses mainly on introspection and being spiritually close to God. It, along with the other branches of belief in Islam, focus on finding peace. However, some see it as a confusing and slightly unsettling belief system that threatens the more commonly accepted Sunni and Shiite Islam. Sufism poses a challenge to the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that many extremists subscribe to.
Sufism is still Islam, it is just a different “version” when compared to Sunni and Shiite Islam. We all believe in the same basic principles and revelations, but we practice them and value them in different ways. This should not be a bad thing, for we as humans need to learn how to live in unity while respecting the fact that not everyone is going to conduct their lives in exactly the same manner as the next person. We must find where our understandings of religion overlap and celebrate the intersections instead of letting the differences to understand their differences instead of us. Murder, hatred and disgust are all things that plague our planet far too often.
Sadly, terrorist and extremist groups from every religion and school of thought are going to be very hard to get rid of–there are probably always going to be people out there who need to look at things as radically as possible. But observers of the attack, along with offering thoughts and prayers to the victims, must learn a valuable lesson from this disastrous event, and that is a lesson of tolerance and acceptance. If you’re a Muslim and you don’t know much about Sufi Islam, educate yourself. If you’re a non-Muslim and you don’t know much about Sufi Islam, educate yourself. If you’re a person who cares about others on this planet, educate yourself on different beliefs and different types of people. Be in the know, learn about and embrace dissimilarity, and spread kindness and joy as much as you can. These are elements of life that have been far too absent from the world, and we all can play a part in bringing them back.
May the victims of the attack rest in peace, may Allah (SWT) bless their souls and their families they have left behind and may we all one day learn how to live together as people without violence or hatred of any kind.